The Inheritance – Now available!

If you inherit something, do you also inherit responsibility for its history? Even if you have no awareness of that history?

So begins my second novel, The Inheritance, available on Amazon and iBooks. This novel fictionalizes my own internal struggle and eventual resolution of discovering that money I had inherited could be traced to land stolen from an American Indian tribe during the late 1800s. But there is enough fiction in The Inheritance that even if you know my story, you can’t be sure what will happen in the novel.

After tracing the house she inherited from her grandmother to the selling of land stolen from the Utes, Denise (the protagonist) must decide whether to stand up for her family or her convictions. As Denise says at one point,

I wrestled out loud with my struggle to reconcile my relationship with my parents with my conviction that my family’s welfare rests on historic injustices.

The novel explores how someone who benefitted directly from the removal of an American Indian tribe from their lands comes to understand how that happened and what one can do about it. Denise wrestles with guilt on hearing about the impact of land theft directly from a Ute elder. How much responsibility does she bear for what happened long before she was born? As a fourth-grade teacher charged with teaching state history, how much can she change the prescribed curriculum in order to teach history from Indigenous viewpoints?

Up until that very moment, I had not verbalized, even to myself, how difficult it was to reconcile living my life as I always had, with the knowledge that I was living it on stolen land, in a house purchased via stolen land.

As she gradually weighs various responses, Denise comes to terms with who she is in relationship to those around her. 

Like my previous novel White Bread, The Inheritance will appeal to anyone who is interested in family history. Built into the novel are some strategies for researching family history that add to those described in White Bread. The Inheritance will also appeal to classroom teachers. The protagonist Denise had majored in geology. As an elementary teacher she does not teach geology per se, but works to connect science with literacy and social studies. She also gives considerable attention to rethinking her social studies curriculum from Indigenous perspectives. California teachers will see Denise gradually learning to work with the California Indian History Curriculum, and perhaps more importantly, why it is important to do so. 

Won’t dwelling on the past just stir up feelings about what happened? I mean, we can’t change history. Isn’t it better to learn to appreciate each other today?

Like White Bread, The Inheritance will challenge readers to confront relationships between what happened in the past and current conditions. In this case, the main question is: What does it mean to be a descendant of white people who participated in the colonization of Indigenous peoples? Are there constructive responses that move beyond wallowing in guilt, or simply dismissing the past as if it had no impact on the present and you can’t do anything about it anyway?

Finally, any reader of White Bread will feel like returning to a place that is familiar. Denise teaches at Milford Elementary, and gradually begins working with Jessica Westerfield. And for those of you who wondered whether Jessica and Tim got back together, Denise’s best friend Angela drops a hint.

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